Review: The Black Country by Alex Grecian

10th June 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Putnam Books in exchange for an honest review.

It was an unusual egg. Not at all like other eggs Hilde had seen. It was slightly larger than a robin’s egg, white with a thin spiderweb of red, visible under a paper-thin layer of snow….The blue dot in the center ringed a smaller black spot and reminder her of something, but it was out of context and it took her a long moment to place it.

And then she did and it was an eye, and the eye was looking at her.

Alex Grecian’s The Black Country has one of the more visceral openings of an historical mystery I’ve read in recent years. For those who think historical mysteries are “cozy” or can’t compete with more contemporary mystery, this installment of the Murder Squad series should change your mind.

Hammersmith and Day of the Yard’s Murder Squad arrive in Blackhampton in the British Midlands to find a snowy, sinking mining village. Three people are missing, and the locals are falling ill rapidly. The eye is cause for concern, yet no one seems eager to find Sutton Price, his wife, or his child, whose disappearance has caught the attention of the Yard.

The black country is, as its name implies, a dark and mysterious place, its people full of superstition. Resistant to the cool logic of the duo, the villagers seem to know more than they’re saying, as do the other Price children who remain tight lipped.

As time runs out, and Dr. Kingsley joins Hammersmith and Day, Grecian ups the fear factor as an unknown assailant with a striking resemblance to the local boogieman, Rawhead and Bloody Bones, stalks the woods, hunting one in the village’s midst. The people and the place seem to be against the detectives, as the village repeatedly sinks and settles during the investigation, causing damage and injury and leaving the inhabitants more and more unsettled, waiting for the black country to mete out justice.

Reminiscent of the uncanny fear Dan Simmons is capable of instilling in his writing, Alex Grecian’s The Black Country is worth a spot on your summer reading list.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

  • I really liked this one, too. Not only does it win for the most visceral, creepy opening, but it should also win for the most creepy-looking character. *shudders*

    • I know! That first scene in the woods had me quaking in my boots.

  • Andi

    This looks creepalicious. I dig that.

    • Haha! Great way to describe this one.

  • Charlie

    As much as I like the cosy historicals (admittedly I haven’t read enough mysteries to appreciate differences in any particular period) I would give this a go for the difference. It certainly sounds spooky.

    • I’m with Charlie, pretty much word for word!

    • It IS spooky in all the best ways.

  • iliana

    Now that is a great beginning! Love historical mysteries so this one is definitely going on my radar!

    • Isn’t it? Certainly shocked me.

  • pattismith

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about this author…I really need to check it out!! Enjoyed your review!

    • Thanks, Patti! Hope you like this one if you pick it up.

  • Kristen M.

    This is already a great series and I really like both Day and Hammersmith. And the setting was great and was one I’d never read about before (which is starting to be rare). I’ve been asked if you could read this one on its own and I thought so. What do you think?

    • Definitely. I haven’t read The Yard and want to, but I certainly didn’t feel left out not having read it.

  • Sheila DeChantal

    Sounds good!

    • It really was!

  • Yvette

    Sounds like the moody kind of book I might enjoy reading, Jenn. These sorts of things should be approached cautiously – you gotta’ be in the mood. At least I do. Have you read THE SOLITARY HOUSE by Lynn Shepherd? Dark and moody and wonderful.

    How about the books by Imogen Robertson? They are historical mysteries set in the 18th century, not a century usually associated with dark thrillers.

    Anyway, have what about the first Alex Grecian book? For whatever reason my library still doesn’t have it. I’m thinking about buying it. Should I?